Tawnya Madl

To be honest, I feel as if I learn far more in my online courses than I would in traditional classrooms.


University of Phoenix


Master of Science in Nursing, Pittsburg State University (2006); Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Pittsburg State University (2004); Associate of Science in Nursing, Neosho County Community College (1989)


PhD in Nursing


Why did you decide to attend University of Phoenix to get your doctorate in nursing?

I decided to attend University of Phoenix for my doctorate in nursing because of its location and convenience. I live in Southeast Kansas and the nearest traditional campus was more than 2 hours away. I also have 4 children, a husband and my own practice, so neither that commute nor the hours that a traditional campus keeps were feasible for me.

I came to the nursing field itself, however, more than 20 years ago. I had always wanted to help people, and the local community college at the time offered a 2-year associates degree in nursing that I could pursue while living close to home. I am now getting my PhD in nursing from Phoenix for the very same reason.

What are your school’s biggest strengths?

The biggest strength of University of Phoenix is its faculty. In my experience, the faculty work hard to produce professionals who will have the confidence and competency to succeed in their fields. Each of the courses has also been very centered on students, which I think speaks to the skill of the professors.

I also appreciate the reputation that Phoenix has in the academic community. It has hundreds of large physical campuses, rather than an entirely online program or only 1 or 2 tiny campuses. In addition, Phoenix’s curriculum for this degree path stacks up well against traditional campuses. It emphasizes leadership, which in my opinion, is an essential skill.

The only weakness so far has been the lack of community among nurses of all degree levels. I would love to see undergraduate nursing students mingling with doctoral nursing students. However, I believe that Phoenix has been transitioning toward social media, so perhaps this weakness will go away with a little more time.

Do you view University of Phoenix as a community?

Yes, I view University of Phoenix as a community. I have had many positive interactions with my classmates, and the coursework itself seems to create a sense of shared struggle among students, too. That sense of community has given me a profound sense of school pride. Not only would I be proud to attend University of Phoenix again, but I also feel more pride for it and its community than I do for any of the traditional universities that I have attended.

Does University of Phoenix have brick-and-mortar campuses?

Yes, University of Phoenix has many of physical campuses. As a result, my transcript does not indicate that any of my courses are online.

I also believe that the negative stigma surrounding online education is vanishing as more traditional campuses also adopt online models. I am certain that having an online PhD will not harm my job prospects or make me less competitive in the academic community.


How are you paying for college?

I am paying for my PhD with a combination of federal loans and cash. The total tuition is around $50,000. I also pay a $125 technology fee that gives me access to digital copies of my textbooks. Apart from tuition, the biggest expense has been the residencies. I pay travel and hotel costs for those.

How helpful was your school in assisting your financial aid process?

University of Phoenix has been very helpful in assisting my financial aid process. They assigned me a team who made applying for and obtaining federal loans an easy process. Even now, the financial aid advisor is always willing to answer my questions, and if I e-mail, I always hear back within 24 hours.

Do you feel like your overall cost of education is more or less than the cost of a degree at a traditional institution?

I feel that the overall cost of my education is somewhat more at Phoenix than it would be at a traditional institution, but I also think that its resources and program curriculum are worth the expense. In my opinion, monetary cost is not always the most important consideration.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

Yes, the admissions process for me took about a week. I filled out a brief survey on University of Phoenix’s website and within a few hours, an admissions counselor had called me. The advisor spoke with me at great length about the process, my potential schedule once I started and the trial courses that the university offers for people who are worried about doing well online.

What did you write about in your personal statement?

My personal statement, or letter of intent, talked about my desire to achieve the highest level of professional nursing practice possible, as well as my desire to serve communities and individuals.

How many letters of recommendation did you submit in your application?

I submitted 2 letters of recommendation and they were both written by business partners of mine. As far as I can recall, the university did not require me to select faculty to write my letters, just people who could give at least a professional reference.

Do you have any insight on how University of Phoenix weighs the different parts of an admissions application?

Yes, I think that Phoenix weighs the GPAs of applicants heavily in the admissions process, but to be honest, I think that purpose matters more to the admissions board than performance. The board seems to be looking for people who are lifelong learners with the desire to excel in their fields.

During the admissions process, did you interact with an admissions advisor?

Yes, I interacted with an admissions advisor throughout the admissions process. He contacted me shortly after I filled out a brief survey on the Phoenix website and then guided me through the entire process. He even took a full hour out of his day to help me fill out my application, 1 question at a time.

Classroom Experience

How is class material presented?

The class material is generally presented in documents, e-books and PowerPoint presentations. Because I do not have to log in at certain times, I can do my reading and coursework at times that are convenient for me. The teachers also present their syllabi at the beginning of courses so that I can always plan in advance to complete my assignments.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of this style of presentation?

The major benefit of this style of presentation is that it lets me manage my time efficiently. I can set aside time for my family and my work and still complete my education. What is more, the ability to look ahead at my upcoming assignments and schedule them into my week, or even complete them early, allows me to plan for special events or vacations.

The drawback of this style is actually how much autonomy I have. I do not have someone guiding me or keeping me focused on my work. All of that management and organization is my responsibility.

Are you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?

Yes, I am able to stay engaged in my online coursework, although my 4 children can make it challenging at times. To be honest, I feel as if I learn far more in my online courses than I would in traditional classrooms. I am not only fully immersed in the material, but I get to read the varying perspectives of my classmates and compare them to my own.

Do your professors encourage class participation?

Yes, professors encourage class participation by requiring students to write and respond to posts on the message boards each week. The number and quality of our responses is what determines our participation grade, while the number of days that we post each week determines our attendance grade.

The professors also respond to student posts with questions or ideas that are meant to incite additional discussion. Sometimes the professors even make general posts just to get some thoughts from the class or encourage them to evaluate new perspectives.

What method of communication do you use to keep in touch with your professors?

The primary method of communication that I use to keep in touch with my professors is e-mail, but I can also contact them through the message boards and forum or by phone. Typically, they post office hours and make themselves very available to us.

Can you rate the faculty on a scale of Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, Extremely Poor, in terms of:

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall  Excellent Professors are focused on student success.
Qualifications Excellent Professors all possess PhDs and extensive experience.
Knowledgeable Excellent Professors are all prepared to research and instruct at the doctoral level.
Lectures 1) Content: Excellent

2) Clarity: Excellent

Professors present well-rounded and articulate lecture material.
Assignments 1)Relevance: Excellent

2)Reasonable: Excellent

3)Clarity: Good

4)Assistance Provided: Excellent

5)Feedback Given: Excellent

Professors give relevant assignments, as well as timely and appropriate assignment feedback, but some assignments require additional explanation.
Grading Excellent Professors grade in a fair and consistent manner.
Responsiveness Excellent Professors respond to questions or comments within 24 hours.
Reliability  Excellent Professors are always present for their courses.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent Professors demonstrate a sincere desire to see their classes succeed.
Interest taken in student as an individual Excellent Professors treat each student as an individual.

What advice would you give to students to help them succeed in an online classroom?

My advice for students who want to succeed in an online classroom is to not procrastinate. Online learning has too many assignments and too much material for students to catch up once they fall behind.


Why did you choose to enroll in your nursing program?

I chose to enroll in my nursing program because my longtime goal had been to achieve the highest possible education and skill in nursing. I wanted the option to teach others, but I also did not want to leave the clinical setting. After weighing several of the healthcare and nursing-oriented degrees available through Phoenix, I settled on this PhD in nursing because it offered the most applicable curriculum for my goals.

Does your program include a dissertation component?

Yes, my program includes a dissertation component. For the dissertation, students design, implement and publish research studies. We work under the guidance of University of Phoenix faculty who act as our mentors and dissertation committee members. The dissertation process at Phoenix has several steps and deadlines for approval, including topic and research participant proposals.

Are you given an advisor to assist you through the dissertation process?

Yes, University of Phoenix provides advisors to assist students in my nursing program through their dissertations. I have not selected mine yet, but I am looking for someone with a PhD in nursing who is comfortable with the type of research that I plan to do.

The role of my advisor will be to guide me through the various stages of getting a dissertation approved and put together. In my opinion, my advisor will be more like a coach and supporter than anything else. I plan to get in touch with him or her by phone or e-mail as often as necessary.

Does your program have a residency requirement?

Yes, my program has a yearly residency requirement. For my first residency, I flew from Kansas to Atlanta, Georgia, and I will do that again next October.

The biggest drawback to the residency requirement is definitely the cost, but I also feel that the contacts I made there will be valuable to me throughout the rest of my life. In fact, I recently spent 2 hours discussing an assignment over the phone with a student I met at my last residency.

If you were to do it again, would you sign up for University of Phoenix’s PhD program in nursing?

Yes, if I were to do it again, I would sign up for University of Phoenix’s nursing PhD program. I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience at this institution and have felt that my education has surpassed what I would have received anywhere else.


What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a PhD in nursing at University of Phoenix?

I would advise students who are considering a PhD in nursing at University of Phoenix to think about the type of doctoral degree that they want, because the field is filled with opportunities for both teachers and doctoral nursing practitioners. In my opinion, students have their choice of careers and educational paths.